‘These issues are still here’: Advocates speak out following unhoused experience event in Victoria Park
Demonstrators set up in the park, but did not stay overnight, as part of what they called “The Unhoused Experience: 24-Hour Challenge”.
Despite concerns of friction with officials, organizers say the event was entirely peaceful.
A handful of people attended Friday night’s event to share stories about what it’s like living rough.
"Hearing about people's lived experiences of the existing systems of like ‘this is what it's like’, we've heard stories of people who are in the shelter system hoping they would stop getting robbed all the time,” said co-organizer Jaime Stief.
Advocates were in attendance to highlight the homelessness crisis in Waterloo region.
"Somebody that hasn't really traversed much adversity in life, they're not gonna have an understanding,” said housing advocate Sean Hubert. “I think this gives an opportunity to gain perspective, an initiative like this.”
City officials warned organizers the event had to be over by 11 p.m. and no tents or structure could be erected, as per a city by-law. Organizers say demonstrators left last night to avoid any confrontation.
"People who are uncomfortable around formal authority would maybe be a little less comfortable coming to this event, we think that might have been a tactic for the city," Stief said.
Friday’s event comes a month after a clash at the park between protestors and security at the bridge to Roos Island.
Three people were charged connected to the minor injury of a peace officer during the incident.
Both the City of Kitchener and regional police tell CTV News no fines or tickets were issued in connection to yesterday’s event.
Demonstrators returned to the park Saturday morning to set up workshops to advise attendees on speaking at council meetings and helping job seekers.
"The visibility of things like tent encampments is part of what we're advocating for here,” Stief said. “The visibility of it is a really important element of keeping this issue on the table, of letting people in this community know these issues are still here [and] they don't disappear when you suddenly stop seeing tents in the park."